Sleepaway Camp (1983) is part of a series of films that I mostly watched entirely backwards thanks to my father. Why? Because one night my dad stumbled across the Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989) on a movie channel and he knew these films would become some of my favorites. He was right. They are so insanely cheesy and why I love them. A good cheesy horror film is just as good as one sometimes that can scare the hell out of me. Many eighties horror could probably fall into the cheese category instead of the frightening category. Granted, I have horror films I will talk about later that fall into the latter category for sure, but for now a discussion Sleepaway Camp is a must!
After watching the third film I did not entirely understand some of the scenes. Later that same month, Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988) came on another movie channels as well and I found myself just as wrapped up in the second one as the third one. I knew then that renting the original film was a must. The odd part of stumbling into this series backwards was remembering the covers at all the video stores once upon a time when the thought of watching a horror film scared me. Soon Sleepaway Camp was on its way to my mailbox. After completing an assignment that evening, I stayed up a little longer to watch the film.
The synopsis of Sleepaway Camp is a simple one. As the beginning of the film shows, a horrible boating accident kills Angela’s (Felissa Rose) entire family. She is a shy girl, who is then forced to move in with her eccentric aunt Martha and her cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten). Ricky is of course protective of Angela because of everything the young girl has already had to endure at such a young age. After all, as someone who has loss a parent, dealing with such grief is one of the hardest things one will ever have to deal with within their life.
Instead of keeping the kids cooped up at home, one summer Martha gets the idea to send both Ricky and Angela to Camp Arawak. Soon after the arrival of the two children, a bizarre series of murders begin to take place to claim the lives of various campers. The campers targeted are those with impure thoughts and intentions far from anything deemed honorable. With a twist ending that no one sees coming, unless they read about it on a spoilers page, Sleepaway Camp is one of the most fascinating slasher films in the genre’s history.
The two actors I feel the need to speak about are Rose and Tiersten. They did a terrific job with the roles considering the complexity within each role. Plus when one takes into account the campy aspects of the film they truly did an outstanding job. With this said when one really dives into Angela’s character Rose gives a fantastic portrayal. This is not to say that Pamela Springsteen does not do a terrific job of playing Angela in two of the sequels, but I still wonder why Rose was not cast. Maybe she did not want the part, but who knows. Her portrayal is legendary within the horror realm.
Tiersten is also the perfect as the overprotective cousin. At any given moment Tiersten is willing to stand up for his cousin as any good relative should do at any given moment. I also loves that Tiersten returns to play Ricky in the last installment, Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008). With so many years in between the last installment to the fourth one, and even more between the original and the fifth film it is nice to know that some actors are willing to return to their roots.
Overall, Sleepaway Camp is one of the cult classics that any horror film owes it to themselves to watch. This film is also really fun to watch with a group of people who have no idea about the ending as well. Obviously plenty of people will, but seeing the reactions of people who have never seen the film is quite classic.
From a personal standpoint, I was still shocked by the time I got around to seeing the original film. My father had not filled me in on anything other than he loved the series and he thought I would too. One of my other favorite stories comes from my best friend who insisted on showing the film to her brother after I showed it to her. So rent Sleepaway Camp today. This is a horror classic that provides shock and many comedic undertones even if one might feel guilty for laughing at various scenes in the first place.